What’s Happening: Italy under lockdown, officials infected
ROME (AP) — Italy spent the first day under a nationwide lockdown after the government extended restrictions on movement in the north to the rest of the country to contain the new coronavirus. As Italians awoke to a new reality and virus cases continued to climb, Chinese President Xi Jinping’ made his first trip to the city where the global epidemic first emerged. The contrast illustrated the global east-to-west spread of the virus.
These are some of the latest developments on Tuesday:
ITALY BEGINS LIFE UNDER NATIONWIDE LOCKDOWN
Italy’s first day under a nationwide lockdown came after a decree signed late Monday by Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered the nationwide restrictions on movement. Panic buying erupted, prompting the government to assure citizens that supermarkets will remain open and stocked. Conte’s office said runs on supermarkets went counter to the intent of the new decree, which aims to prevent Italians from congregating. Soldiers and police enforced the travel ban and Carabinieri teams patrolled cafes to make sure owners were keeping customers a meter (about three feet) apart. Meanwhile, neighbors Malta and Italy slammed their borders with Italy shut.
CHINA’S PRESIDENT VISITS VIRUS EPICENTER
Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first visit to the coronavirus’ epicenter of Wuhan — his first since the start of the outbreak — as parts of the nation appeared to be returning to normal. It was one of several recent signs of the diminishing threat the coronavirus presents in China as the illness spreads west. In mainland China, where the outbreak emerged in December, almost three quarters of the more than 80,000 patients who contracted the virus have recovered. Employees have been returning to work, but with new routines that include workers wearing protective face masks and not facing each other while eating.
VIRUS INFECTING POLITICAL AND MILITARY LEADERS
A growing number of military and political leaders are getting sick with the virus. Poland’s top army commander, Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, was diagnosed after returning from a meeting in Germany. Many other officials are in self-isolation after potential exposure, including President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, the German interior minister and the Norwegian defense minister. The Spanish parliament’s lower house canceled its activities for a week after a far-right Vox party member tested positive as cases in the country surged to 1,600. This follows the French culture minister and several French lawmakers testing positive for the virus. In Italy, Nicola Zingaretti, the governor of the Lazio region who is also head of the Democratic Party, is also recovering. Meanwhile, four Iranian officials, including government members and a lawmaker, are being treated.
JEWS SCALE BACK PURIM FESTIVITIES
The spread of the coronavirus is forcing the cancellation or a scaling back of celebrations for Purim, usually a joyous holiday when Jews dress in colorful costumes and hold parties. The Israeli government banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people, which forced the cancellation of Israel’s best-known Purim parade, in the city of Holon. In the United States and Israel, some synagogues sent congregation members videos of services.
STOCKS STEADY AFTER PLUNGE
Global stock markets rebounded and oil prices recovered some after a torrid day on Monday. Markets in Europe and Asia were higher and stocks on Wall Street also surged. Monday’s global selloff reflected alarm over the potential economic pain in the wake of factory closures and strict controls on travel. Israel, for example, has decided to quarantine all visitors to the country, while Austria says it will be barring entry to most travelers from Italy.
ITALY’S PATIENT NO. 1 GETTING BETTER
Italian doctors celebrated one small victory in their battle against the coronavirus after a 38-year-old man was moved out of intensive care for the first time since he tested positive Feb. 21. He is considered to be the first Italian to have contracted the coronavirus — Patient No. 1. But in the rest of northern Italy, the virus’ spread was growing so exponentially that doctors were having to decide who gets priority in care and access to intensive care unit beds. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of people recover. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
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